How to build your profile using LinkedIn and get noticed!

As a recruiter and headhunter, LinkedIn is a daily tool for me. And as recruiters we assume that everybody uses it the same way we do, and are always taken by surprise when we come across people with fewer than 10 connections, and no explanation of what they do or who they are.

LinkedIn is now the Number 1 tool recruiters (and many hiring managers) use to identify new talent, or to learn more about people they might be interested in hiring. You can influence your ability to be found by creating a good professional image and brand on LinkedIn.
Here are some simple ideas you can use to improve your LinkedIn profile:

1. Create a profile that reads like a professional CV. LinkedIn is a great tool to really showcase who you are and what you are all about. Use the summary to highlight your experience, expertise and interests. Many professionals use LinkedIn to create their professional brand, your employer will think this is normal (that is, not a job-search activity), and it will greatly improve your chances of being on the radar of headhunters and recruiters.

2. Make sure that the expertise you want to be recognised for, or the areas you want to work in, are in your profile so that they show up in keyword searches. As an example, if you are an engineer who really wants to work in healthcare, make sure that you mention that in your summary. This way, your profile will come up when a headhunter is looking to recruit engineers for a healthcare company.

3. Edit your public profile: if you are interested in a career move, ensure that your public profile is visible. LinkedIn gives you an option on what others can see when viewing your profile. You can choose to only show some basic information, which is fine if you value your privacy, yet you need to understand that this makes it harder for headhunters to find you. An experienced resourcer will find their way around this “obstacle”, but do you really want to create hurdles to be found if you want to consider a career move?

4. Use the “advice for contacting…” box to give your contact details if you wish to be approached. If you don’t actively list them here, only your connections can see your contact details. A headhunter or recruiter will have to connect with you through LinkedIn to get in touch. This is fine, but if you don’t check your LinkedIn inbox every day (and very few people do), you might miss out on interesting opportunities.

5. Join groups that are in your field of expertise. Many jobs get advertised or promoted through groups specifically aimed at certain professions; for example, we will use the groups for system engineers to make people aware that we are recruiting in that space. Being a member of profession-specific groups will also help you to be found by headhunters who specialise in that area, or hiring managers who are considering hiring for their teams. By contributing in the group, you can build up a reputation in your area of expertise, which will get you noticed by the hiring community.

Good luck building your professional profile and getting noticed. We will continue to share our tips with you.

Does sex matter?

Let’s start with an excursion in phrenology…

Phrenology was a (pseudo)science popular in the 19th century. Developed by the German physician Franz Joseph Gall, the central theme of the theory states that the different bumps on a person’s skull determines their personality. Gall developed his theory after examining thieves in prison and discovering that most of them had lumps above their ears. He claimed that a person’s moral and intellectual abilities were innate and could be determined by examining their skull. The theory led to widespread stereotyping and even formed the basis for some Nazi theories of race superiority.

With some exceptions, phrenology was widely discredited by the beginning of the 20th Century. New discoveries in science led to an increased understanding of the brain versus the shape of the skull. Research in neuroscience has also proven that intelligence is not just innate, but the brain continues to evolve throughout life.

At the beginning of the 21st century, we have an increasing body of research focusing on the innate differences between men and women. We regularly read articles in the press highlighting the scientific evidence for differences in personality traits between men and women, differences in how they view the world, process information etc. Our educators are told to understand the differences between girls and boys, so that they can focus their teaching appropriately on both genders.

I am not a scientist, and will not argue against the accuracy of all this research (although I would like to point out that many renowned scientists disagree). I do however wonder how helpful the research is to the advancement of women’s opportunities. If men and women believe that their differences in personality and learning are innate, we offer both genders an excuse to stick to the status quo. In an article I recently read, one researcher who claims that men and women are inherently different pointed out that government initiatives to attract more women into science and engineering might be pointless, as girls tend to choose careers and education that fits their personality.  In other words, girls don’t have the personality for engineering? That sounds remarkably similar to the argument that boys with lumps above their ears will be thieves.

Whether the differences between men and women are innate, driven by differences in their brain function or driven by society and culture is irrelevant in how we deal with gender equality in the 21st century. Regardless of the underlying reasons, men and women are treated differently today, and behave differently. We hear plenty of anecdotal evidence from women who were pushed into arts subjects, even though they were interested in science. We read about women who drop their science subjects at university fearing they are not good enough, even though they have better grades than their male peers. We talk to lots of female engineers who are unsure about their career and future, and don’t feel at ease in the culture of their company. Sharing from my own experiences, I will never forget a tutorial I had during my master’s degree where I was singled out for not having read the materials on the reading list. One of my fellow students only half-jokingly pointed out: “it doesn’t matter my dear, in the end you’ll make a good housewife!”

Men and women alike, we are all stereotyping every day, and it is not helpful. We talk about the need to accommodate job sharing and part time working, to attract more women who want a better work-life balance, assuming men are not nurturing, and do not want to spend time with their family. There are lots of well-meant political initiatives that reinforce stereotypical thinking about women, and do nothing to advance equality in the workplace. In the Netherlands, the desire for part time working and increased family time is shared by both genders, and many men and women work four days per week, allowing each parent to spend a day with their children. Consequently, both men and women will combine their career with their important family life, and employers cannot willingly or unwillingly treat women less favourably on the assumption that they will need more time off. It is assumed that the desire to nurture one’s family life is gender-neutral. When developing plans to attract and retain more women in areas where they are traditionally underrepresented, like science and engineering, the best starting point is to forget everything we know about the genders, and ignore all assumptions in our head about behaviour and attitude. When recognising that people value family time and might prefer to pursue careers where a life-work balance is a real option, let’s focus on all individuals who value increased time off, rather than singling out women as a “target group”. When talking about changing company cultures to attract more women, let’s focus on a company culture that welcomes a more diverse group of people instead, men and women alike.

Above all, let’s always acknowledge that everyone is different. If we really want to help women feel more comfortable in their environment and advance in their chosen field, let’s start with their real personality rather than their assumed traits.


Those who can, do…

My last blog sparked an interesting debate in one of the LinkedIn groups. Many people commented that the level of knowledge a recruiter has is more important than gender to determine competence. I agree that knowledge and understanding of engineering is important. Some commentators pointed out that the author of these blogs doesn’t have an engineering degree, and can therefore not be a competent engineering recruiter.

True, I have a degree in Economics and a Masters in Law and Economics. I started my recruitment career in finance recruitment, in which I was successful for many years before moving into engineering recruitment.

I have worked with many excellent recruiters over the year. They have many things in common: a good brain and a desire to learn, excellent listening skills to really understand what the hiring manager and the candidate are looking for, and a willingness to question in order to increase their understanding. Some of the excellent recruiters I have worked with did not have a degree in their area of specialisation, many did.

I personally do not believe that a degree or experience in engineering is necessary to become a great engineering recruiter. I appreciate that having a different background is a handicap, and it will take a while to build up enough knowledge and understanding of your chosen area within engineering. A curious and intelligent recruiter can achieve this. An outstanding recruiter – in any specialisation – needs qualities over and above knowledge of that field. Candidates do not always realise the communication skills and tenacity required to serve the interests of someone considering a career move. Many large organisations have an automated applicant tracking system (ATS) in place these days. Recruiters are required to find new vacancies and job descriptions through the system, and to submit candidates and receive feedback the same way. Human interaction and communication with the hiring manager is often impossible. A recruiter whose only tool is his understanding and knowledge of engineering will very quickly hit a brick wall when trying to understand the details of the job description, how that role fits into the project or company, and will struggle to get meaningful feedback for the candidate who applied. A professional recruiter will know how to break through the wall and communicate with the hiring community. He or she will be able to get meaningful feedback from a hiring manager to pass on to the candidate before or after the interview. I firmly believe that this can add more value to the candidate for future applications, interviews and even for future career decision.

A great engineering recruiter is an agent. In professional sports, players have agents representing their interests. Whilst these agents will sometimes be ex-professional players, more often they will have a background in law, accountancy or PR. Professional sports people understand that they need people with different skill sets from their own to represent their interest. A good sports agent will be passionate about the sport they work in, have a thorough understanding of the game, and know what skills the various clubs are hiring. They will also be able to advise the player about career steps over and above short term financial reward, and negotiate a contract in the best interest of the player.

Ok, so those who can, do. What do you really want your recruiter to be good at? Do you need another technical sounding board or do you want expert advice about your career opportunities?

Women Engineering Recruiters: So What?

My business partner and I set up Sagent because we are passionate about the art of recruitment. We believe that technical recruitment has become a process driven industry, where truly understanding the needs of candidates and hiring doesn’t matter anymore. We didn’t realise that we had another selling point until clients started pointing it out. “You are a women owned engineering recruitment business”, a stakeholder at a large company told us, “that is great, we really want to diversify our supply chain.”
Really? That was our selling point?

We weren’t so sure how to feel about this. Being raised in a feminist household and having always believed in the power of hard work and my skills as a good sales person, I didn’t want to win business because I am a woman. More importantly, most of our staff, candidates and clients are men, I can’t tell them that this is our selling point!
But we were wrong. Being an engineering recruitment company owned by two women does matter. Our perspective on recruitment is female; some of the values we bring to our business are typical female values. That doesn’t mean they don’t appeal to men. Our consultants joined us because they like our values. Our candidates like dealing with us because we want to understand their career motivations and drivers alongside their technical expertise. Many men value this just as much as women.

Diversifying the recruitment supply chain matters to our customers. Most engineering companies are sincere in their efforts to attract more women engineers. Not just because it looks good on the CSR agenda, but out of sheer necessity. In a market driven by candidate shortage, our clients understand that they need to appeal to everyone, and that excluding skilled candidates will limit their ability to innovate and grow.

For a long time, the drivers in our sector have been around process improvement and efficiency, automation of sourcing to increase response rates etc. Candidates experience a slick, automated recruitment process with little personal interaction with the agency or corporate recruiter. At Sagent, we passionately believe that we will be better able to serve all engineering candidates – male and female – through a more personal approach, were conversations matter and are a real part of the pre interview assessment. Women might be less active job seekers, might welcome more coaching throughout the process, might benefit from a different interview style with the hiring manager etc. We don’t believe in positive discrimination. We will not favour female applicants over male applicants. We do however believe that our recruitment process will give female engineers a better chance to get the job they deserve. And that is why diversifying the supply chain in recruitment matters for engineering companies!

Are we obsessed with social media?

When I started my first job in recruitment back in 1995, I received an induction training on candidate screening, candidate interviews, taking a job order from a client etc. Each module of the  training had a personal interaction between two people at its heart, and we talked a lot about ‘the art of conversation’. In the candidate screening process, we focused on the candidate’s motivation as much as on their technical skillset. Similarly, we were taught to always have a conversation with the hiring manager when taking a job order or presenting candidates, to understand exactly what they value in a prospective employee.

When I look at the training programme that consultants starting out in recruitment receive these days, I notice that a lot of emphasis is placed on the ability to source and network for candidates on job boards, LinkedIn and other social media. The recruitment industry seems to accept that the consultants with access to the newest tools, the best understanding of Boolean searches and the largest network on LinkedIn will be the most successful.

The result? We do not value the art of conversation with candidates and clients anymore, and don’t train our consultants to have them. A lot of my fellow recruitment directors and business owners complain that their offices feel like  data centres, with consultants typing away on their keyboards instead of talking to clients and candidates.

We can have any number of connections on LinkedIn or friends on Facebook, and feel very productive and busy without actually being effective. The ease of clicking a link and virtually connecting with someone, or getting a colleague to ‘like’ a post, or finding you have another Twitter follower, is less than half the task: every connection gained through social media should be developed through actual, personal interaction – or you’re kidding yourself as to its actual value to your network.

Consider this:

A good friend of mine is not on LinkedIn. He is an accountant and director in one of the well known London accountancy and consultancy firms. He is well qualified and respected in his profession. He is also not happy at his existing firm and I am certain that he would consider a new opportunity if someone would approach him. Is he the exception? Possibly, but he is also an excellent candidate who could be an exclusive candidate and a great placement for a proactive recruitment consultant. Even though I acknowledge that the majority of professionals are on LinkedIn, not everyone uses the site as enthusiastically as a recruiter. Our candidates’ profile might not be up to date, and he might only use the site occasionally, thereby missing opportunities to show up in our searches or responding to our targeted advertisements. 

Whilst I appreciate that social media can be a fantastic tool to source and communicate with candidates, I also firmly believe that it does not replace the art of conversation. As long as conversations are still part of the hiring process through the job interview, recruiters would do well to use the same methodology in their work practices.